President Robert V. Antonucci announces retirement

President Antonucci and Shelby Tozier
President Antonucci on the air. (Photo by Shelby Tozier)

By Adam Reno & Nancy Henry
As many of you may already know, Fitchburg State University’s President Robert V. Antonucci announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year. While the student body has been pre-occupied with academics, athletics, club meetings and typical Thursday nights on Highland, Antonucci has been putting all of his time and dedication into making the Fitchburg State campus a better place for each one of us. His vision and leadership has had a profound impact on both the campus and the larger North Central Massachusetts region and here is how it all began…
Eleven years ago, a man of Italian heritage named Robert V. Antonucci decided to fulfill the role as President of Fitchburg State University. He made this decision after having a long history of working in education. However, many of us do not know that Antonucci has had an extremely successful and busy professional life beyond his work as university president. Antonucci discussed how his father had immigrated as a young man from a small farming community near Rome.
As the first generation in his family to attend college, Antonucci decided to begin his career by obtaining an education at Fitchburg State College, receiving a Bachelor of Science Education with a Minor in Science and Math. He also has a doctorate of education from Boston University and holds honorary degrees from Endicott College and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. After graduation, his career involved employment in various jobs in the field of education. He taught in Lunenburg for seven years as assistant principal. He continued his career in Leominster from 1974-1980 as an Assistant Superintendent and then headed to Falmouth, MA to take the position of Superintendent of Schools.
Robert V. Antonucci was an education commissioner in the 1990’s and played a key role in the passage of the state’s historic Education Reform Act of 1993. He is a former president of the Riverdeep Learning Company, which is a leading provider of electronic educational software, and he has held positions such as president and chief executive officer with the Harcourt Higher Education and California College for Health Sciences.
To add to his amazing community work, he was chair of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges strategic planning initiative as well as the State University System of Massachusetts Council of Presidents. After his time as comissioner, he decided to venture into a different line of work with a five-year stint in the private sector where he worked with a national publishing company.
In 2003, he came back again to Fitchburg State University to act as the President, a decision he felt was highly influential. “I love leadership, I like administration.” he said. “I came back to my Alma mater. I took a positive step in attempting to make that happen and it did happen, and it was probably one of the best decisions I made in my whole academic career.” Since his start, enrollment has increased greatly, academic programs have been added, online programs have multiplied and major fundraising campaigns have been completed. Antonucci was also a leader in the successful effort to rename the state colleges as universities.
“I think the college has changed significantly in the last 11 years. We invested a lot of money into making the campus a lot more adaptable to students.” Antonucci said. He then went on to list projects such as the Science Building, the North Hike Fields and the new Nursing Lab as some of those accomplishments. Under Antonucci’s reign the dining commons have been renovated, our aging athletic facilities have been converted into top of the line stadiums, and technological initiatives have been constructed including the establishment of a wireless campus.
There has been a total upgrade of computer laboratories and many new classrooms have been added that allow technological access for faculty and students alike. Historic buildings were renovated and we have branched campus buildings onto North Street where the science center opened in 2013. This was the first new academic building to be built on the Fitchburg State campus in 30 years!
Antonucci had made a promise to strengthen the university’s commitment to the city of Fitchburg and he kept his word. The university has purchased many distressed properties, has constructed a new police station on campus, and has relocated the Professional Studies office to Main Street. The university has taken over control of the Wallace Civic Center and has beautified the arena, which had aged greatly.
Over the past few years and to this day, a major renovation of the campus center has been happening which has provided additional academic space and has made the campus more aesthetically welcoming to prospective students.
As a part of the Fitchburg State student body, we may not have been aware of Antonucci’s amazing community accomplishments, but we have been able to see the beneficial changes that have occurred around our campus over the last 11 years.
“It would be difficult to overstate the impact President Antonucci has had on this institution,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Carol T. Vittorioso. “He has overseen what is likely to be the most extensive transformation of the campus in its 120-year history.”
President Antonucci shows a great love and enthusiasm for Fitchburg State University and its students. He very much wants everyone working and studying on campus to have the best possible experience here. Antonucci broke down what he thought needs to be done in order for the university to continue thriving. “ The University needs to focus on teaching, learning, and service. If you look at the Rec Building, the same banners that I had when I first came here were about teaching, learning, and service. Those are our basic principles.”
Antonucci also said that students play a major role in the university’s success. “Without students, we don’t have a university. Everything that the President does, the faculty does, the administrators do really should revolve around making the student experience much more positive.” He also explained the final element to be taken into consideration. “Take a good look at the capital of facilities here. I think college has changed significantly in the last eleven years.” he said.
Upon taking the position, Antonucci knew the job would not be easy. “This job as president requires you to be on duty twenty-four seven, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, if you do it right.” he said.
One of Antonucci’s plans before leaving Fitchburg State is to begin to combat the smoking problem on campus. He mentioned that he was aware that there is a smoking problem in the school, but that it must be handled delicately. Although, some people are upset by the habit, he also has to consider the rights and feelings of the smokers. He said that the first step is to put signs on all the buildings that prohibit smoking within 25 feet of that building. The rest of the process might have to land in the hands of the next President.
Though he is retiring this year and plants to spend time with his five grandsons, President Antonucci still believes that he will help the college, considering his experience. He feels that he could continue to act as a resource and be a positive influence.“I will keep active and I will keep busy, and hopefully, I will stay linked with Fitchburg, and if I can help them in any way, I will.”
It is apparent that our President Antonucci has set the bar very high for any potential Fitchburg State University presidents in our campus’ future. He has been dedicated to making this campus the best it could possibly be and he has been successful in all of these endeavors. Antonucci has gone above and beyond, around this community and surrounding communities, to make education beneficial for all, which no doubt contributes to the successful programs we have here at Fitchburg State.
As students at Fitchburg State, we are grateful for the growth of our campus over the past 11 years under Antonucci’s watch. We can only hope that during this 2014-2015 academic year, the Board of Trustees may choose a new President to continue the beneficial work that has been accomplished during the Antonucci legacy and choose someone who is as influential to individual students as Antonucci has been.
We hope that we will have a president that is as involved as President Antonucci has been. One specific student, Shelby Tozier says, “The president personally appeared on my radio show junior year. I was so thankful. It really helped me stay with clubs and want to succeed, knowing that our president genuinely cared.”
So we thank you Dr. Antonucci, for your years of hard work and dedication to this institution and to all who are apart of it. You made a large impact on everyone and your presence as our President will never be forgotten.